PM under pressure from Right to approve Levy Report

Report calls on the government to transform West Bank outposts on state land into legal settlements.

Ma’aleh Levona 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Ma’aleh Levona 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
As they head out on the campaign trail, right-wing Likud politicians are calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to approve the “Levy Report,” which states that West Bank settlements are legal under international law.
It also calls on the government to transform West Bank outposts on state land into legal settlements.
When the government-commissioned report was first published in July, Netanyahu promised to bring it to the Ministerial Settlements Committee, which has the power to approve it.
But he has yet to make good on his pledge, in spite of continued requests by politicians on the Right in his party to do so.
They believe the report’s passage would garner them more votes and make it easier for them to explain that the Likud is a right-wing party that supports West Bank settlements – even though it destroyed the Migron and Ulpana outposts this summer.
Likud Ministers Yuli Edelstein and Gideon Sa’ar in particular have lobbied Netanyahu to approve the report.
On Wednesday, in response to strong rumors that Netanyahu planned to bring the report to the cabinet Sunday at its annual meeting, politicians on the Right and the Left issued a flurry of comments on the matter.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that they did not know of any formal decision to bring the report to either the Ministerial Settlements Committee or the cabinet.
Still, right-wing politicians, including those from other parties, publicly urged Netanyahu to adopt the report, while the left-wing accused him of playing politics at the nation’s expense.
The report’s stance runs counter to many opinions in the international legal community, including the International Court of Justice at the Hague, which holds that the West Bank as occupied territory.
Irrespective of any legal argument, adoption of the Levy Report is likely to make it even more difficult to thaw the frozen peace talks with the Palestinians.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman wrote a message on Facebook that called on Netanyahu to approve the Levy Report.
He said that “the conclusions of the committee, that Judea and Samaria are not areas under military occupation, even under international law, and that the settlements there are not contrary to international law are correct and important conclusions to be adopted by the government.”
Liberman said it would strengthen the state and solve many problems on both the national and international level.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Independence) gave a long interview to Army Radio in which he accused Likud politicians of falling prey to election fever.
He noted that he had just received a flu shot and suggested that they similarly inoculate themselves against “primary- itis” before it takes control of them all together.
Such pre-election initiatives might play well in the polls, but would otherwise be harmful to the nation, he said.
Netanyahu should wait until after the Likud primaries before bringing the report to the cabinet, by way of ensuring a rational decision that matches the reality on the ground and Israel’s diplomatic needs, Barak said.
“It will harm Israel, it will weaken the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria and increase Israel’s isolation in the international community,” Barak said.
He explained that he supported Jewish West Bank settlement in the blocs, but that it was clear that Israel would have to withdraw from areas in which isolated settlement were located in exchange for a two-state solution.
If adopting the Levy Report would strengthen Israel’s stance in future negotiations, improve its security and insure the future of settlements that should remain part of Israel, “then I would support it,” Barak said.
“But it won’t,” he added.
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich said that the initiative to bring the report forward now was “a transparent elections scheme.”
Yacimovich accused Netanayhu of “trying to bring back a fictitious argument between the Right and Left that does not exist anymore,” as a way to divert the attention away from the socioeconomic state of affairs.
Kadima MK Yisrael Hasson told Israel Radio that the government is “playing with a flame-thrower over a barrel of gasoline.”
“Netanyahu’s government wants to enslave the State of Israel for the sake of political interests and we will pay the price for that,” Hasson warned.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) told Israel Radio that adopting the Levy Report does not necessarily mean extending Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.
Katz asserted that adopting the report could help regularize and normalize life in the West Bank settlements.
Likud MK Danny Danon said on Wednesday that he is working on recruiting support from the US Congress in order to help create international legitimation for the implementation of the Levy Report.
“The main argument against adopting the Levy Report’s conclusions is the international criticism Israel will receive,” Danon said. “By recruiting direct support from Congress, a rare historical opportunity will arise to promote the initiative,” he added.
Already on Sunday, Edelstein sent a letter to Netanyahu asking him to approve the report, explaining that it would normalize life for Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.
Among the report’s recommendations is a new legal system to handle property disputes, particularly with respect to Jewish homes built on private Palestinian property.
The report was penned by three legal experts: former Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker and former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court Tehiya Shapira.